The best books about Native Americans 📚

Browse the best books on Native Americans as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter

Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter

By Barry Lopez

Why this book?

Barry Lopez is also an author that defies choosing among his many great books about nature, including the renown Of Wolves and Men. Less known is his collection of sixty-eight tales of Old Man Coyote, the Trickster, carefully gathered from forty-two Native American tribes. One might understandably take issue with reading a white man’s version of Native American stories, but give Barry a chance to explain himself in the introduction to the book. Of course, nothing can replace the great oral tradition of Native American storytelling, but short of the real thing, this collection will help you understand…

From the list:

The best books on American wild canids

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Book cover of The First Oregonians

The First Oregonians

By Laura Berg

Why this book?

I love the authenticity of this book. The voices are of First Residents, not settlers. It gives the reader the inside story as to what native Oregonians thought of incoming pioneers and how they impacted tribal life. It captures not only the decimation brought on native tribes but also how they reconstructed and revitalized themselves over time. To truly understand Oregon you must understand its native residents - this book accomplishes that in spades!

From the list:

The best books of Oregon pioneer history

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Book cover of The Patriot Chiefs: A Chronicle of American Indian Resistance

The Patriot Chiefs: A Chronicle of American Indian Resistance

By Alvin M. Josephy Jr.

Why this book?

Historians have written moving accounts of the discovery and settlement of the American West, but Alvin Josephy in The Patriot Chiefs tells the same story from the “other side,” meaning from the point of view of the many Indian chiefs who tried to stop the advance of first, the American colonies, and then, the American nation. One by one, their lives and their struggles light up before the reader. Although I read the book years ago, Josephy’s vivid portraits of Hiawatha, King Philip, Popé, Pontiac, Tecumseh, Osceola, Black Hawk, Crazy Horse, and Chief Joseph stay alive in my imagination to…

From the list:

The best books on the history of the American West

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Book cover of You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir

By Sherman Alexie

Why this book?

Sherman Alexie gives it everything he’s got in this sprawling, messy, brilliant memoir. Using his mother’s funeral as a jumping-off point, he investigates her chaotic life in an effort to understand the enigma of her personality and the nature of his complicated relationship with her. The contradictions he uncovers, the bits and pieces of information he’s able to glean, and the incongruities in the stories he discovers are stitched together in a narrative he likens to a patchwork quilt: disparate parts brought together that somehow make a whole.

I love the rawness of this memoir, the humor, the mixed genres,…

From the list:

The best books on the power of family secrets

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Book cover of Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State

Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake Against the State

By Shiri Pasternak

Why this book?

Maybe, this book seems tangential to put on the list. It’s about the struggle to maintain legal authority over ancestral land in a part of what is today called eastern “Canada”. The scare quotes are there because older nations still live on this land and have not ceded their authority. The book shows how the very same problems Gardiner detailed are actually the result of the colonial order that has shaped our international politics and its capitalist system. The book also suggests a way out through an “ontology of care” for the land.

From the list:

The best books on how we got here with climate change and mass extinction – and where to go

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Book cover of Sisters of the Neversea

Sisters of the Neversea

By Cynthia L. Smith

Why this book?

In this unbelievably gorgeous take on Peter Pan, Lily and Wendy are step-sisters who must now spend a summer apart. But a mysterious boy has been watching from the window and intends to take them away forever to a mysterious land. This book tackles head-on the problematic aspects of the original story and contains a story both thrilling and fun. Family, sisterhood, and magic reign supreme in this hard-to-put-down retelling. 

From the list:

The best retellings for middle grade readers

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